Uganda (MNN) — It wasn’t unusual for young girls in her community to be approached for illicit relationships with older men. Nor was it shocking if the girl accepted — usually she did. But this young girl in Uganda refused.
Francis Ssennyanjo of Set Free Ministries East Africa shares this story because it is a testimony of how education can save lives. Previously, he explained how a stable school environment with a Gospel focus helps children escape spiritual bondage.
It was this sort of education that kept this girl from following the harmful patterns so common in her village. She was 14-years-old at the time and almost done with her studies at Victorious Tata Primary School (VTPS) in Uganda. This school is one of many Set Free Ministries supports internationally.
A 37-year-old man was a prominent figure in the village. He was rich. He had a car. This made him powerful. The sexual relationship could have opened up opportunities for the girl, or at least been a distraction. She came from a very poor family. But her response proved she was thinking about the future.
Ssennyanjo shares her story: “She said, ‘No, I can’t get roped into sex with you. I know I have to focus on my studies.’ And this didn’t happen only once. I think it happened about three times, according to her testimony. And she stood her ground.
“Now that was unheard of in those kind of conditions. For a girl of that age to come out and make her stand that she’s not going to get herself involved or entangled in sex — which is a very common thing, kind of a coping strategy among the smallest girls in that community.”
This girl had excelled in school and she knew it was important. Unfortunately, there was no opportunity to continue her education after this age.
Ssennyanjo explains, “Set Free Ministries has been supporting most of the schools to grade seven, which we call primary seven. And really at that time, the children are about 12, 13, 14-years-old.”
This child’s mother couldn’t afford school fees. But then, she caught wind of her daughter’s story.
“When she heard the testimony of this young girl, that she was able to stand against these advances for sex, the mother could not believe this. She decided to commit herself to try to use whatever she has to make sure that her child continues in school. Because she knew that by continuing with the school, the child’s prospects for life would be much, much better.”
The way things are now, the kids are kind of on their own once they graduate from VTPS. Some families can afford to educate their children further, but not everyone. And, it’s not necessarily a priority for many parents. Another concern is there are no high schools in the area that are consistent with the Set Free Ministries’ schools in their support.
“When it comes to grade seven, and the girls and the boys are the age of 12, 13, 14 — those are delicate years,” Ssennyanjo says.
It is heartbreaking to see a girl like this who is so committed to her education but has very little security in pursuing it. Ssennyanjo is especially burdened for the girl child in Uganda. They have fewer opportunities and are more likely to be abused by the harmful patterns that continue to characterize these communities.
The CIA World Factbook says the average age a woman first becomes a mother in Uganda is under 19-years-old. Uganda is the 10th worst country when it comes to adults with HIV/AIDS. A relationship like the one described above puts young girls at high risk to contracting this deadly disease. Additionally, the data source says women face less educational and vocational opportunities.
That’s why Ssennyanjo says, “We believe this is high time that we move forward and continue supporting these children — maybe for the next six years while in high school, and try to provide them with an environment that will enable them to mature in their Christian walk, but at the same time, provide a skill for their livelihood.”
He believes if they can continue to support these children for just a few more years and help them learn vocational skills, they will be more likely to succeed in life, pursue a better future, and refuse to make decisions that contribute to the poverty and spiritual darkness of that area. Ssennyanjo believes they will be a generation that seeks to do good for his country.
And so, Set Free Ministries has begun raising money to build a high school that would board 1,000 students.
He asks that you pray for support — both material and spiritual. Ask God to make these children a light in their community, that they would stand firm in the Gospel and seek better things for their people.
If you would like to support this fundraising project, click here and select “Uganda High School Project.”
Or, you can send a check to Set Free Ministries and include “Uganda School Project” on the memo line.